Tips for a Fabulous Birthday Party

When it comes to children’s birthday parties, you either love them or hate them. A lot of preparation is required and they can be quite stressful. As you may have guessed by now, I’m a lover of plans, researching, organisation and most of all, a good party. So, it probably comes at no surprise that I particularly enjoy putting together birthday parties, especially for my husband and children. I find the preparation involved in the lead up to the party fun, particularly researching for and discovering new party ideas.

Taking on the daunting task of organising a children’s party and then bringing it all together is no easy feat. So I’d like to share with you some tips on how to create a successful children’s birthday party. Not only will the following tips help you to create a better party, but these tips will also help make the process easier for yourself.

Choose a Theme

I believe that all parties should have a theme. Though it may seem unnecessary, having a theme will help you know what decorations to buy/make, what food to prepare, dress code (if you choose to specify one), and what games to plan etc. So I begin the process by asking my son or daughter what they would like the theme of their upcoming party to be. Then I stick with this theme throughout.

Give Yourself Time to Prepare

Make life easier by giving yourself plenty of time to prepare. I would suggest that you start slowly thinking about the party 6-8 weeks in advance. If you start researching and preparing well in advance, it takes the pressure off you having to arrange everything at the last minute. Especially if you work full time like I do, it’s better to start early so that you can casually browse whenever you have a spare few minutes without any pressure.  You can find endless amounts of inspiration online! After all, you have the invitations, music, food, decorations, cake, party bags, games and activities to think about! It’s a lot, but it’s totally doable, and you may even find yourself enjoying it! If the preparation is done beforehand, hosting the actual party should be a piece of cake…..well, easier.

Keep Costs Down

The pressure to spend and throw elaborate parties is a growing trend – and one which parents are struggling with. However, parties do not necessarily need to be extravagant and cost an absolute fortune. There is no need to break the bank and if you are willing/able to put in the effort, there is no need to hire a party planner. If you plan well in advance, it gives you the time and opportunity to find more affordable options, collect bargains along the way, find fun and affordable games and decorations (balloons are enough really) and keep overall costs down. Dutch shops such as Action, Hema, Big Bazar and Xenos are great, and there are also some fun online party shops with exciting and affordable options. However, in general, the more you can make yourself, the better. Making your own invites and sending them out online will also save you some moolah.

Home Sweet Home

We usually always host the kids’ parties at home. Many parents try to avoid this option and I can understand why. It’s much more work and the clean up afterwards is not enjoyable. However, I prefer this option as I love birthday parties the old fashioned way with the traditional birthday party games we all grew up with. I can arrange these more easily in my own home. It also allows me to decorate how and when I want to (usually the night before) and I feel the most comfortable hosting a party in my own environment. Not to mention, it saves money on hiring a venue. Yes, it is easier to book an indoor playground and just let the kids run crazy. However, I have such fond memories of the childhood birthday parties from my youth, so I would like to now create these wonderful memories for our own children. Memories of them trying to pin the tail on the donkey whilst blindfolded for instance, memories of dancing and laughing with their friends in their own home. If you have a large backyard that you can utilise – even better! So I guess that I am making the most of this possibility whilst our kids our still young enough to want to have their party at home.

Keep Them Busy

An important key to a successful party at home is to have structure, a game plan and/or a rough time schedule. When you have a large group of children in your living room, it can easily become overwhelming and out of control, especially if they are preschoolers or younger school aged children. Without control, they will be running through your living room and most likely damaging your ear drums while they’re at it. You need to have enough fun activities and games planned to keep them occupied and constantly entertained. There are reasons why pin the tail on the donkey, egg and spoon races, pass the parcel and dance games have a long history as party activities – they are actually fun and easy to set up. If you keep them entertained, they will not be running wild. Trust me, you will be thankful you had all those games planned (even if they don’t get around to playing them all).

Consider Frequency

Traditional birthday parties take a lot of preparation. So, in our household, we came to the agreement that our kids were allowed to have a large children’s party every second year. Then every other year we celebrate their birthdays low key with family members and a cake of course. In addition to this being more manageable for myself, I also feel that the kids have more anticipation and appreciation of their big birthday parties this way.

It’s the Small Things

It is important to know that young children do not particularly appreciate (or even notice) expensive and extravagant party extras, it’s the little things that they really remember. This Dutch television ad below shows a boy who attends an extravagant over the top party with elephants, motorbikes, clowns and big rides etc. Afterwards when his mum picks him up from the party and asks, “How was the party?”, he answers with, “Yeah great! We ate hotdogs for lunch!”.

Traktatie Extras

In the Netherlands, it is typical that the birthday boy/girl take something small to school to share with each of their classmates and teacher(s) on their birthday (referred to as traktatie). Now if your child is in a class of 20-30 students, this can be costly, so I try to come up with some ideas that wont break the bank, but that the kids will enjoy. I usually also run with the chosen theme when deciding on what they can share with their class mates at school on their birthday. You can be as creative as you like, but I usually go with some home made banana cupcakes or something along those lines (with the paper plates/napkins and icing/decorations in the chosen theme). They may also receive a small and inexpensive gift each as well if I can find something fun. For my son’s birthday party this past week, I decided to go with something different. As temperatures remained over thirty degrees Celsius all week, my son shared small ice cream cups (slagroomijs bekers) with each of his classmates (which cost me a whole 4 euros for 20 of them). Then in addition, as his party is monster themed, they also each received a ‘sticky monster hand’ toy (worth 60cents each from Action). They were a huge hit!

Some Birthday Party Examples..

By now, I’m sure some readers would have already said Oh, hell no! and gone back to browsing Facebook. If you are still reading this post and I haven’t scared you off yet, I’d now like to share with you some of the birthday parties that I have put together over the years. So let me begin with my daughter’s fourth birthday party, which was our first large party with fourteen of her friends…

Rainbow Themed Birthday Party

Games included: Colouring Rainbow Bright, Koekhappen, Making Fruit Loop Necklaces, Decorating our own Cupcakes, Stop Dance. Dress Code: Bright Colours.

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Dinosaur Themed Birthday Party

Games included: Pin the Tail on the T-Rex (ezeltje prik), Colouring Dino Cotton Bags, Musical Statues/Stop Dance game to the Dinosaur Roar song, Pass the Parcel, Dino Masks, Roaring Competition.

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Frozen Themed Birthday Party

Games included: Building a Snowman, Pin the Nose on Olaf game, Making an Ice Bead Bracelet, Colouring, Painting our Nails Ice Blue, Pass the Parcel, ‘Elsa, Elsa, Anna’ (Duck, Duck, Goose), Singing Competition to the Frozen soundtrack. The kids were welcome to wear their Frozen costumes if they had one.

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Monster Themed Birthday Party

Games included:  Pin the Eyes on the Monster, Pass the Parcel, Musical Statues/Stop Dance (to the Monster Mash), Build a Monster, Bobbing for Apples (appelhappen), ‘Cookie, Cookie, Monster’ (Duck, Duck Goose), Colouring a Monster.

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So just remember: Choose a theme and stick with it, give yourself plenty of time to prepare, and plan enough games to keep them busy.

One final tip: Before the party begins, ask your partner or a friend if they could take photos. You will have your hands full and most likely won’t get a chance to capture those kodak moments.

Organising a birthday party for your child is very rewarding. It takes a lot of work, but the smile on their faces when they wake up on their birthday and see the decorations, when they see and taste their cake, and whilst they are playing party games with their friends makes it all worth while. We do it all for the kids.

So if you are feeling up for the challenge of hosting a children’s party in your own home, I hope this post has given you some helpful hints and inspiration. Good luck and I’m sure your son or daughter will appreciate all your hard work in giving them a wonderful party that they will always remember.

Kristen x

Films for Travel Inspiration

Finding it difficult to choose which destination you would like to travel to next? I have put together a list of films which may help you to decide…

Under the Tuscan Sun – Set in Tuscany, Italy. This movie is about a recently divorced writer (the beautiful Diana Lane) who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will lead to a change in her life. You will fall in love with the Tuscany countryside and Italian coastline!

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The Blue Lagoon. The film tells the story of two young children marooned on a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific. With neither the guidance nor the restrictions of society, emotional feelings and physical changes arise as they reach puberty and fall in love. Set on an island in Fiji, this movie will make you want to escape the world and move to a tropical paradise.

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Brooklyn. A story about a young Irish woman who travels by ship to Brooklyn, then falls in love with a local man. Set in both Ireland and America, this movie reminds us that we can be torn between two beautiful countries.

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30 Degrees in February. Actually this one is a series (on Netflix). This interesting program follows the lives of several Swedes who choose to move to beautiful, warm Thailand in search of happiness and a better life.

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Before Sunrise & Before Sunset. The story of a young American man (Hawke) and French woman (Delpy) who spent a passionate night together in Vienna. They touch on their failure to have met as planned six months after their first encounter. Jesse returned to Vienna but Céline did not, because her grandmother had died suddenly. Since the pair had never exchanged addresses, they had no way to contact each other at the time. In Before Sunset (the sequel), their paths intersect nine years later in Paris.

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Sleepless in Seattle. A love story featuring both cities of Seattle and New York. A classic with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan that never gets old. After watching this movie, you will want to kiss the one you love most on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York.

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The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Follow the adventures of a group of hilarious drag queens who go on a four week tour through the outback of Australia. They drive together on a bus from Sydney, through the Simpson desert, to Coober Pedy, Alice Springs, they visit Uluru (Ayres Rock) then back to Sydney, encountering Aboriginals and homophobic locals along the way.

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Romancing the Stone. This movie will make you feel like you’ve ‘got to get to Cartagena’, a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. At it’s core is the walled Old Town, with 16th-century plazas, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. Follow the adventures of Micheal Douglas and Kathleen Turner through the jungles of Columbia on their way to Cartegena.

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The Bucket List. Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. Edward and Carter begin their around-the-world vacation. They go skydiving together, drive a Shelby Mustang, fly over the North Pole, eat dinner at Chevre d’or in France, visit the Taj Mahal, India, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, attend a lion safari in Tanzania, visit the base of Mt. Everest in Nepal, and sit on top of one of the Great Pyramids in Egypt.

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Out of Africa. Starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, this movie highlights the best of Africa. A couple from Denmark marry and move to Africa to start a dairy farm, but things don’t quite go as planned.

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The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants. Four American teenage girls who are best friends, separate for the summer for the first time in their lives. Lena spends the summer in Greece with her grandparents; Tibby is staying at home; Bridget is going to soccer camp in Mexico; and Carmen is visiting her father in South Carolina. On one of their final days they went shopping together, the girls find a seemingly ordinary pair of jeans that fit them all perfectly and flatter their figures, despite their very different measurements. The girls dub them the Traveling Pants and decide to share them equally over the course of the summer. They part the next day, and the film focuses on each girl’s journey separately.

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So where will your next travel destination be??

Kristen.